Saturday 13 June 2020

Dyeing with Forget-Me-Nots

Basket of Forget-Me-Nots

Having had some success with my rhubarb leaf dyeing, and more limited success with dandelions, I decided to have a go with forget-me-nots as this is another plant that we had in abundance in our allotment...

Forget-Me-Nots in the Allotment

Having gathered them, I pulled the flowers off and added them to the dye pan. I had a little more weight in forget-me-not flowers than in fabric but not a lot and certainly not twice the weight of fabric in forget-me-nots which would have been ideal....

Forget-Me-Not Flower Heads in the Dye Pan

Dye Pan Flower Detail
The fabrics I chose to dye were some wool yarn, wool blanket and cotton calico.  They were soaked overnight in soy milk which I had read acted as a mordant for cotton fibres.  A mordant is a dye fixative.  It helps bind the dye to a fabric to make it more colourfast and can affect the resulting colour.  For example, mordants may intensify the dye colour.  Alum was recommended for wool but I didn't have any of that so I soaked them all in the soy milk (1 part soy milk to 4 parts water).  I could only get light soy milk.  I don't think this worked as well as ordinary soy milk would have.  I dried the fabric before putting it in the dye bath.

Fabric to Dye

To make the dyebath, I covered the forget-me-nots with water and simmered them for an hour and then removed the plant matter by straining. 

Sieve of Plant Material to be Discarded

The remaining liquid formed the dyebath to which I added the dry fabric.  My pan was aluminium as this was all I had. Ideally you would use a non reactive pan made out of stainless steel.   I simmered the dyebath for about an hour, during which I added a few rusty nails as nothing much seemed to be happening.  I thought this might help as you can use iron as a mordant too.  The recipe for an iron based mordant involves soaking some iron objects in 2 parts water to one part vinegar solution for a couple of weeks until it goes a rusty orange colour so this intervention was unlikely to have a great effect.

Dye Bath & Fabric

I left the dyebath to cool overnight...

Dye Bath After Cooling Overnight

The following day I rinsed out the materials, washed them and hung them up to dry.  Here are the results together with a little sample of the original fabric to show the colour change...

Before and After Dyeing Results

I was hoping for a blue colour and when the dye pan started heating up the water was very green so I thought a greeny colour might be a possibility.  However, the outcome was very similar to that of the dandelion dyeing which frankly, was a little disappointing. I may have overheated the dyebath which resulted in a more neutral colour than expected. I would also probably have got a better result if I'd been more careful with the mordanting process and used more forget-me-not heads.

Forget-Me-Not Dyed Items

The forget-me-not yarn and blanket were slightly paler in colour than the dandelion dyed pieces and the calico was very similar in colour bit a slightly different shade...

Wool Yarn

Wool Blanket


Not sure yet what I shall use the fabric and yarn for but interesting to experiment.  Why not have a go with some of your abundant plants?

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